Thomas BOWEN #6522

Attestation paper for Thomas Bowen, page 1, Service record, National Archives of Australia

Indigenous Australian, Thomas BOWEN, 18th Infantry Battalion

Thomas BOWEN was born in Charters Towers, Qld. about 1875 and had been employed as a shearer at Narrabri when he volunteered in January 1917. He would have been a striking figure standing 6ft 3in high and weighing 13 stone; and he named his wife Mary Ann Bowen as his next of kin, who resided at the Angledool Aboriginal Reserve, near Lightning Ridge.

Bowen left Australia on board the troopship Wiltshire with the other recruits assigned to the 19th Reinforcements for the 18th Infantry Battalion in February 1917. They arrived in England eight weeks later, training first at Rollestone Camp, followed by Windmill Hill, Andover and Perham Downs before joining his battalion near Arques, in northern France on 28 August 1917.

Not one month later, on 20 September 1917 the battalion was conducting an assault along Westhoek Ridge and although they achieved their objectives, over 200 men were killed, including Thomas Bowen.

Thomas Bowen's effects were retrieved in two consignments and directed to his wife Mary at the mission. The first was received in November 1917 and the second in May 1919. Mary was granted a pension in 1918 after the manager of the mission wrote to the authorities on her behalf.  She also received Thomas's service medals in 1922. Mary died at Brewarrina in 1936.

There is no known grave for Private Thomas Bowen, he is commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.

Thomas Bowen's name has been scheduled for projection onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial.

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The information in this blog post has been researched by State Library staff and volunteers, it is based on available information at this time. If you have more information that you would like to share or further research uncovers new findings, this post will be updated.

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